Buy any PC or notebook and you'll probably be offered the chance to trial and buy some kind of security suite, be it from McAfee, Symantec or any other of the "Internet Security" companies. Such software packages are intended to keep your system secure from viruses, spyware and all the other nefarious little blighters you'll encounter from using the Internet. However, it ought to be no great secret that you can gain the same functionality by using a combination of excellent freely available software. Here's our quick and to the point guide of software worth looking at.
Anti-Virus is obviously an essential for any PC connected to the Internet, particularly if you're also sending and receiving lots of emails using your machine. There are many free Anti-Virus applications out there, but the two best and most popular are Grisoft's AVG Anti-Virus and avast! Anti-Virus from Alwil Software.
Both offer a comprehensive set of features, including real-time scanning and email scanning as well. Updates to software and anti-virus databases are also free, with both automatically updating during use. All-in-all there's very little to choose between them, though avast! does require a free activation that must be renewed every twelve months whereas AVG requires no activation at all.
Though many routers come with hardware firewalls a software firewall remains an important thing to have, especially if you're using a notebook on the move. Moreover, although Windows does have a built-in firewall, it isn't up to much and lacks many of the features these free alternatives have. Again, there's lots of choice out there but two of the best and most renowned include ZoneAlarm and Comodo.
ZoneAlarm is a user friendly application, requiring little in the way of configuration. As with most firewalls, initially you must train it to accept connection requests from programs you use regularly. One useful feature of ZoneAlarm is the Game Mode, which temporarily deactivates the firewall for playing online games.
Comodo is another excellent, though not so renowned option, that's well suited for more advanced users as well as beginners. There's a network monitor for those who want to take a closer look at what's going on, while everything is presented in a way that is comprehensible to the novice as well providing more detail than ZoneAlarm. Regrettably, though, it doesn't as yet support Vista, which will doubtless count it out for some.